A tuk-tuk and a vineyard, Algarve

A tuk-tuk and a vineyard

pic (331)pic (345)The tuk-tuk tour was a birthday treat for Neil and to make it extra special I booked the tuk-tuk wine tour, which included wine tasting with snacks guided by a wine specialist. After a false start earlier in the week, which I shall gloss over, Vasco Chaveca, the owner of Allgav-TukTuk himself, picked us up from outside our apartment in Carvoeiro and drove us to a lovely winery located between Lagoa and Silves. The drive to the vineyard was pleasant, with a cooling breeze coming into the open-sided tuk-tuk and as there was no engine noise we were able to chat easily to Vasco, who was an affable chauffeur. Vasco formed the Portimão-based company in 2013 and in 2016 the company was named the Tour Operator of the Year – Algarve in the Luxury Travel Guide Global Awards.

We arrived at the Quinta do Outeiro, the home of Paxá Wines, and were met by Nídia, our host and guide, and were briefly introduced to the owner of Paxá Wines, Tiago Lopes. The company was founded in 2007 by Tiago’s father, Joaquim, who turned the former citrus grove into 13 hectares of vines, using 12 grape varieties suited to the rust-coloured clay and limestone soil. Wine has been produced in the Algarve region since before Moorish times and the company’s name, Paxá, (Pasha) is recognition of the Moorish heritage. Until the 1980s it is fair to say that Algarvean wine was not good. The main grape variety of the region was Negro Mole, which made an unpalatable red wine best suited to pouring on salads. However, Algarvean wine producers are now growing different grape varieties, such as Touriga Nacional, Syrah, Alicante Bouschet, Arinto and Crato Branco, and are skilfully blending them into quality wines.

After a tour of the small production area, where until last year the team of seven labelled the bottles by hand, we walked through the vineyards, learning that only three permanent employees look after the vines, although contracted workers are taken on to help with the harvest in August.

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Finally we entered the old farmhouse, which is now a tasting room and display area where the company proudly displays awards that their wines have won at various wine shows. A table was laid out with appetizing snacks and we were given a leaflet with tasting notes. We began with a glass of Quinta do Outeiro Tinto, a light red made of Syrah, Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional, Aragonez and Trincadeira grapes. It was fruity with soft tannins and was very pleasant to drink on its own. We then tried it with a crispbread spread with pork pâté which the wine complimented, cutting through the richness of the pâté. Next we tried a Paxá Branco, a wonderful citrus white wine, launched in February 2017, made with Arinto and Crato Branco grapes. This was a light and refreshing wine, perfect to drink on its own on a hot day. To go with this we were offered a crispbread spread with a mackerel pâté. The wine worked perfectly with the rich fishy flavour of the mackerel. The third wine was the Paxá Tinto, a dark red wine made of Syrah, Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz grapes. It was a wonderfully smooth, berry-flavoured wine, which I could see myself drinking in the winter. To accompany this we were offered dark orange-flavoured chocolate. I don’t have a sweet tooth and for me the chocolate didn’t work with the wine, which I was happy to drink on its own! The winery also produces several Reserve wines and limited editions, included an intriguing oak-barrelled Viognier.

Our visit had come to an end, so we climbed, slightly tipsy, back into the tuk-tuk and Vasco drove us back to Carvoeiro following a different route to the one we had come in from. We said our goodbyes and spent the afternoon in a happy haze.

Practicalities

We booked the tour through the Allgav-TukTuk website www.allgav-tuktuk.pt. A two-hour tour with wine tasting costs €40 per person (as of June 2017) and a three-hour tour with snacks costs €65 per person.

Paxá Wines is located at Quinta do Outeiro, Sítio do Lobito (between Lagoa and Silves). Website: www.paxawines.pt

Algarve, Alvor

Alvor

 

(246)_fish market and harbour Alvor
Fish market and harbour, Alvor

Alvor is a pretty little fishing town which is popular with tourists, as opposed to many of the other former Algarvean fishing villages, which are tourist resorts that are popular with fishers. It may be a small difference, but it is an important one, as Alvor has retained its charm in a way that other places on the coast of the Algarve haven’t. Not surprisingly, Alvor is famous for its fish restaurants on the waterfront over-looking the fishing boats in the River Alvor estuary. The anchor pattern in the cobbles here reflect the fishing tradition, while a statue, Homenagem ao Pescador (‘Homage to the Fisherman’), sculpted by João Cutileiro (who also sculpted the statue of King Sebastian in Lagos) in 2000, acknowledging the importance of the local fishermen, is in front of the nearby fish market, where fishermen sit and play cards.

After walking around the Alvor Nature Reserve we decided to explore the town further. A walk up the pedestrianised Rua Doutor Frederico Ramos Mendes, Alvor’s main restaurant and bar street,

leads to the Manueline Igreja do Divino Salvador (Church of the Divine Saviour), built in the early-sixteenth century. The arch around the front door is a wonderfully extravagant example of Manueline style, with carvings on the arch in the shape of plants and a giant octopus tentacle making up the final arch. Inside the church the highlights for me were the ornate altar, two Rococo-style azulejo panels depicting the Last Supper and Jesus washing the feet of the Disciples and several depictions, in stained glass and sculpture, of Nossa Senhora da Boa Viagem (Our Lady of the Good Voyage) holding a child in one arm and a boat in the other.

From here we walked up Rua 25 Abril, a narrow street with traditional whitewashed houses, to the Praça da República, a tree-lined square which I suspect is the real heart of Alvor, where local older men sit and chat. In one corner of the square is the small Igreja da Misericórdia (Church of Mercy).

A short walk south of the square are the remains of a former Moorish castle, dating from the time when the town was called Al-Bur. The castle was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake and the surviving castle walls now shelter a children’s playground.

As we walked back to the car park a man offered to sell us a bag full of freshly caught razor shells. It seemed a fitting end to our visit to Alvor.

Algarve walks, Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve: ‘At the whim of the tides’

Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve: ‘At the whim of the tides’

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Town and harbour from Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve

It was a typical Algarve winter day in late December, with blue skies and warm sunshine; a perfect day to do a walk around the Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve, which is described in the Guide to Walking Trails in the Algarve, published by the Turismo do Algarve, as the ‘At the whim of the tides’ walk. It is an easy, circular walk, most of which is along a wooden walkway which zigzags over the salt marshes and wetlands by the estuary of the Ria de Alvor. As with most of the walks included in the Guide to Walking Trails, there are information boards around the nature reserve and we learnt that Alvor lies on a lagoon formed by a tidal estuary which is fished for razor shells and clams and due to its varied geological features the reserve attracts many species of birds, such as the cormorants and common-ringed plovers that we saw on our visit, as well as dunlins, Northern gannets, herons and terns. The boards also informed us that we would see plants such as Sarcocornia fruticosa, shrubby sea-blite and grand statice on the salt marsh and I have photographic evidence that we did indeed see Sarcocornia fruticosa, with its distinctive red and green string-of-bead-like stems.

From the walkway there are lovely views of Alvor’s harbour, the fish market and the pretty Igreja do Divino Salvador (Divine Saviour Church) at the top of the hill, and to the east are views of the nearby (rather unphotogenic) high-rise hotels and the cliffs of Praia dos Três Irmãos in the distance. At the furthest western point of the walk where the mouth of the estuary meets the sea is a manmade breakwater made of granite blocks, which leads to the lighthouse. This is another popular fishing spot. From here we walked among the sand dunes on the Praia do Alvor, where another information board noted that the sand dunes act as a barrier between the lagoon and the sea and that the area is a transitional habitat between the land and the sea, but my overriding thought was that the soft sand was much harder to walk along in sandals than it looked.

After we had meandered our way along the walkway back to the start of walk we decided to explore the pretty town of Alvor. But that is for another blog!

Practicalities

The walk is 5km and takes approximately 2 hours. It is an easy walk along a flat wooden walkway for most of the walk and along the beach for some of the walk. There are several information boards along the walk with information in Portuguese and English about the flora, fauna and geological features.

This walk complements the Quinta da Rocha nature reserve: the ‘Rocha Delicada Trail’ walk, which approaches the Alvor Estuary from the north-west.

We parked in the open-air car park on Rua da Ribeira, which is opposite the start of the walk.

Buses run to Alvor from Lagoa, Portimão and Lagos.

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Common-ringed Plover, Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve